About 4.4 million Americans have received an updated COVID-19 booster dose since the start of September, according to data recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That figure represents about 2 percent of the people who are currently eligible to receive those shots.
The federal health agency started recommending the bivalent COVID-19 booster shots made by Pfizer and Moderna several weeks ago. It’s designed to combat the Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.
Because the CDC data does not include individuals who received the updated COVID-19 boosters in Idaho and Texas, the White House told The Associated Press that they believe that about 5 million doses of the new booster have been administered.
The American Health Association estimated that more than 200 million Americans are eligible for the bivalent COVID-19 vaccine booster.
The CDC recommendation is for Pfizer’s booster for Americans aged 12 years and up and for Moderna’s booster for American adults. People are advised to get the updated boosters as soon as two months after their most recent shot, down from five months.
The old boosters will no longer be available. The primary series of the vaccines will remain the same, or based on the original Wuhan COVID-19 strain. The updated boosters contain components of the spike protein from the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants. BA.5 is the dominant strain in the United States at present.
In signing off on the new boosters on Sept. 1, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky recommended the shots, saying that they are “formulated to better protect against the most recently circulating COVID-19 variant.”
“They can help restore protection that has waned since previous vaccination and were designed to provide broader protection against newer variants,” her statement continued. “This recommendation followed a comprehensive scientific evaluation and robust scientific discussion. If you are eligible, there is no bad time to get your COVID-19 booster and I strongly encourage you to receive it.”
But during a meeting of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices several weeks ago, its members noted a lack of human data for the bivalent boosters.
“I really do struggle with a vaccine that has no clinical data that has been reported for humans,” remarked Dr. Oliver Brooks, one of the members, in the meeting. Data that was presented by Pfizer and Moderna dealt with a human trial that tested a different formulation, a bivalent with components of the original virus strain and the BA.1 strain.
But Dr. Melinda Wharton, the panel’s executive secretary and a CDC official, urged members to think about how influenza vaccines are updated each year without clinical data, and other members said they appreciated the comparison.
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.